Isoptera (termites, white ants) nests

Termite Nest

Many species rely on the structure of the nest to regulate the internal temperature and humidity. Some nests have chimneys. Inside the nest the heat from the termites' bodies and fungus gardens warms the air which rises up the chimney, and is replaced by cooler air entering through underground tunnels. Also the Bernoulli effect of wind blowing across the top of the chimney pulls air out as air pressure is lowered, and so air is drawn up the chimney.

The orientation of the nest also aids temperature control. Many Australian species have large, sail-like nests oriented north/south. This means that as the sun rises in the morning from the east, the large, flat shape faces it, so warming up. But when it is midday and the temperature is too hot the thin side faces the sun so minimising solar heating.

Below is the nest of Schedorhinotermes laminarius, a termite found on the Ivory coast in Africa. The nest has been cut to show the internal structure. This species usually nests inside a hollow tree in a nest made from wood debris held together by saliva and faeces - nice!

termite nest

Below is a Cubitemes sp. mound. The mound is constructed of soil particles cemented together with saliva. The mushroom shaped overhang at the top is designed to allow the rain drops to drip away from the base of the nest to protect its structure. This nest was found in Cameroon in West Africa. Many termites in the Cubitermes genus are soil eaters.

Cubitermes mound

Nasutitermes sp. nest

Below is a nest of a termite in the Nasutitermes genus. This genus is found throughout the tropics and often nests in trees, as this one does. Some species have multiple satellite nests. The soldiers in this genus have a head which tapers into a pointed snout. This nest was taken from Cameroon in West Africa.

Nasutitermes termite nest

After mating the king and queen construct a nuptial chamber. This is the start of the termite nest. For more >

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